Parents allow under-fives to watch 'unsuitable' TV shows
More than half of parents allow pre-school children to watch "adult" television programmes such as EastEnders, despite fears over unsuitable content.
Research published in the UK on Monday suggests thousands of parents regularly use TV as a “babysitter” for under-fives and most fail to monitor their choice of viewing.
The disclosure follows claims from teachers that unsupervised access to television may be leading to a decline in discipline standards as children mimic bad behaviour seen on screen.
According to the latest research, some 54pc of parents admit to allowing children to watch programmes considered to be orientated towards adults.
This includes Coronation Street and EastEnders, the soap opera that courted recent controversy over a baby snatching storyline. It has previously covered issues such as rape, murder, drug addiction and child abuse.
Almost 78pc of parents claim children watch TV alone for around two hours a day and two-thirds do not know about the characters or storylines being viewd. A quarter of mothers or fathers admitted using the television as a "babysitter".
The poll of 1,000 parents was carried out as part of the Hello campaign – a national drive by The Communication Trust to improve standards of speech, language and listening.
It published a 10-point plan guide for TV viewing among under-fives. This includes ensuring parents watch programmes with their children, answer questions about issues raised on screen, making sure shows are age-specific and turning off the set altogether at vital times to allow infants to play.
Wendy Lee, spokeswoman for the campaign, said: “Parents play a crucial role in supporting their children’s communication development. This survey highlights they are not suffering from ‘guilt overload’ but there are areas where parents would benefit from more information and advice.
“Chatting about characters, making up stories and even acting out adventures can help parents to develop their child’s language and communication.”
Two years ago the Association of Teachers and Lecturers warned that unsupervised access to TV was leading to a rise in pupils mimicking catchphrases, swearing, storming out of classrooms and answering back.
Teachers said EastEnders, The Catherine Tate Show and Hollyoaks were also among the worst influences on young people.